HARRISBURG — Former Penn State President Graham Spanier wants a judge to put his planned defamation lawsuit against former FBI Director Louis Freeh on hold until after Spanier’s criminal trial in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
In Centre County court papers posted online Monday, Spanier’s lawyers contend that moving forward on the civil case now would undercut it. They wrote that people who are potential witnesses in both cases might assert their right against self-incrimination and refuse to testify if the still-unscheduled criminal trial is pending.
“There is no reason not to stay this action pending the resolution of the criminal trial,” the attorneys wrote in the court papers filed in Bellefonte.
Penn State’s trustees hired Freeh to conduct an internal investigation of the Sandusky matter. In a highly critical July 2012 report, Freeh concluded that Spanier, football coach Joe Paterno and other high-ranking university administrators had failed to protect children against Sandusky, a former assistant football coach who is serving a 30- to 60-year prison term.
Spanier initiated a lawsuit on the day before the anniversary of Freeh’s report, complying with a state law that gives people who believe they have been libeled or defamed one year to initiate a civil lawsuit.
But Spanier has provided few details about the planned lawsuit. He has yet to file an actual complaint and is asking the court to defer any requirement that he do so until after the criminal proceeding is concluded.
In the latest filing, Spanier’s lawyers disputed Freeh’s finding that Spanier and the other administrators repeatedly withheld critical facts from authorities.
“Spanier did not once conceal facts about Sandusky’s child abuse, let alone ‘repeatedly’,” they said.
Spanier, former vice president Gary Schultz and former athletic director Tim Curley are charged in what prosecutors say was a criminal cover-up of complaints about Sandusky. Paterno died of lung cancer in January 2012.
Lawyers for Freeh and Spanier did not immediately respond Monday to phone messages and emails seeking comment.